Highway 395: Ultimate Top 12 fun list for families!

Embarking on a family road trip along California’s Highway 395 through Inyo and Mono County promises a treasure trove of experiences, combining nature’s wonders with engaging activities for kids of all ages. This scenic route offers a myriad of exciting stops that will enthrall your family throughout the journey. Here is a shortlist of 12 things to do and see, from south to north, tailor-made for families with children:

  1. Alabama Hills: Kick off your adventure with a visit to these intriguing rock formations, perfect for climbing and imaginative play. Hike the trail to the famous Mobius Arch for an iconic rock-framed view of Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States.
  1. Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center: Start the rest of your journey here, where your kids can participate in educational programs, receive activity booklets, and view a large topographic model of the Sierra Nevada mountain range while gazing at Mt. Whitney through the center’s large glass wall. The visitor center is also a great place to pick up fun souvenirs!
  1. Manzanar National Historic Site: Engage your children in a history lesson through the interactive exhibits at this well-preserved former WWII Japanese internment camp that sheds light on a pivotal and troubling chapter of American history.
  1. Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest: Marvel together at the world’s oldest trees, sharing tales of their age and resilience. Walk the shorter Discovery Loop Trail or the longer Methuselah Trail. Sitting at just under 10,000 ft. elevation, the Schulman Grove Visitor’s Center is a great place to learn more about the ecology, history, and limited geographic range of these amazing trees. On the way out, stop at the Sierra View Overlook and gaze in awe at the stunning panorama of the Eastern Sierra range stretching north and south as far as the eye can see.
  1. The City of Bishop, CA: The most populous and developed area in Inyo County, CA this charming town provides a range of family-friendly activities. Nestled against the backdrop of the stunning Sierra Nevada Mountains, nature enthusiasts will find a wealth of activities including fishing and hiking among the alpine scenery above. Within the city proper, enjoy Bishop’s vibrant arts scene, local galleries, and delicious culinary options. Join throngs of tourists at the famous Erik Schat’s Bakery then walk across the street to the gorgeous 44-acre city park.
  1. Laws Railroad Museum: Step aboard vintage trains and step back in time wandering through 11 acres of historic buildings and hands-on exhibits to learn about the region’s rich railroad heritage. Immerse yourselves in the Old West at this living museum just outside of Bishop, CA. Laws is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and is designated as a California Historical Landmark.
  1. Rock Creek Lake & Little Lakes Valley: If you’re looking for a relatively easy hike in gorgeous alpine scenery, look no further than Little Lakes Valley. Up Rock Creek Canyon and past sun-dappled Rock Creek Lake, the trail from the parking lot begins at a breathtaking 10,000+ feet in elevation but does not gain much more elevation along the trail, making this a good hike for families. The trail is also well-traveled, and for good reason: Little Lakes Valley offers some of the best high Sierra views of the whole range.
  1. Mammoth Lakes: Whether skiing and snowboarding the famous 11,053 ft. elevation Mammoth Mountain in winter, or fishing, mountain biking and hiking the myriad of trails in summer, Mammoth Lakes offers year-round family fun. The most developed and highly populated area in Mono County, Mammoth is the perfect blend of accommodations, amenities and nature and is a great base camp for your family from which to explore the surrounding area.
  1. Devils Postpile National Monument + Rainbow Falls: Embark on a kid-friendly hike to see the fascinating hexagonal basalt columns and marvel at nature’s geometry. After visiting the monument, head down the trail further to witness the impressive 101-foot Rainbow Falls waterfall, an experience your children will never forget.
  1. June Lake Beach & June Lake Loop: In winter, this is Mono County’s family-friendliest ski town. In the summer, enjoy family picnics and water activities on June Lake’s stunning beach and shallow turquoise waters, surrounded by breathtaking mountain vistas. Afterward, drive the stunningly scenic 16-mile June Lake Loop, marveling at the surrounding massive granite peaks, groves of quaking aspen trees, and four sparkling alpine lakes.
  1. Mono Lake & Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center: Capture your children’s imagination with the otherworldly tufa towers. Stroll along the captivating shoreline and let them learn about the lake’s unique geology and ecology. Mono Lake is stunningly beautiful at any time of day, but especially so at sunrise or sunset. At the visitor centeret your kids become junior rangers, participating in interactive programs that teach them about the environment.
  1. Bodie State Historic Park: Spark your children’s imagination with a step back in time to a well-preserved Wild West ghost town. Experience the atmosphere of a once-thriving mining community frozen in time, with weathered buildings, vintage artifacts, and a sense of eerie stillness. Explore the deserted streets and peer into preserved interiors that provide a fascinating glimpse into the past. Hauntingly beautiful, Bodie is an adventure for history enthusiasts and curious travelers alike. (PLEASE NOTE: The last three miles to Bodie are on a rough dirt road.)

Highway 395 through Inyo and Mono County California is a playground for families seeking natural beauty, educational experiences, and memories that will last a lifetime. With a blend of outdoor adventures, historical sites, and interactive activities, this route promises an unforgettable family journey through one of California’s most stunning landscapes.

As with any road trip, make sure to check that your vehicle is well maintained and that you have a good supply of emergency items with you. Also, please make sure to check on road conditions and closures, opening dates, and dates and times/hours of operation for any of the items listed above before you travel. Happy travels!

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